Distributor:  Icarus Films
Length:  58 minutes
Date:  1997
Genre:  Expository
Language:  French / English subtitles
Grade level: 10-12, College, Adult
Color/BW:  Color
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This title is included in the following collections: The Docuseek2 Complete Collection 2nd Edition, The Congo History Collection

Matamata and Pilipili

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Reclaims an important episode in the history of Congolese popular culture, the Matamata and Pilipili series of colonial-era film comedies, while exploring the complex terrain of colonial relationships and media representations.

Matamata and Pilipili

In the 1950s Albert Van Haelst, a Belgian missionary and film fanatic, made some twenty films in the Congo: the Matamata and Pilipili series. These comic heroes, an African answer to Laurel and Hardy, delighted Congolese moviegoers.

The films disappeared at the close of the colonial period. Until Tristan Bourland recovered the original negatives from archives in Belgium and produced MATAMATA AND PILIPILI, the films had never been viewed outside of Africa.

More than fifty years later, MATAMATA AND PILIPILI reveals these forgotten gems. Through them, and through the story of their creation, their reception by the Congolese audiences, their disappearance, and what happened to Van Haelst and his two Congolese stars, MATAMATA AND PILIPILI reclaims an important episode in Congolese cultural history, while exploring the complex terrain of colonial relationships, media representations, and popular culture.

"A significant documentary… Lays bare the tension between exploitation and the need of Africans to see images of themselves even if mediated by a colonial hand. Bourland succeeds both in recovering lost cinema history and exposing, to a degree, contemporary postcolonial tensions. An important contribution… appropriate for postcolonial, cultural, ethnological, African and cinema studies courses or venues."—Professor Sheila Petty, University of Regina, for H-AfriLitCine


** 1997 African Studies Association Conference Film Festival
** 1997 Margaret Mead Film Festival, New York
** 1997 Bilan du Film Ethnographique, Musée de l'Homme (Paris)


Main credits

Bourlard, Tristan (film director)
Bourlard, Tristan (commentator)
Haelst, Albert van (film director)
Kamanayo, Georges (film producer)
Béthune, Kathleen de (film producer)
Seligmann, Guy (film producer)
Bruneau, Sophie (commentator)
Jespers, Jean-Jacques (narrator)

Other credits

Image: Gilles Stassart, Frederic Decoux, Jean-Marc Vervoort; montage: Yves Van Herstraeten.

Distributor credits

A film by Tristan Bourland

Docuseek2 subjects

Sub-Saharan Africa
Film History
Film and Video Studies
African Studies

Distributor subjects

Central Africa
Cinema Studies
Media Studies


Belgian Congo; Matamata; Pilipili; colonialism; media; video; ; "Matamata and Pilipili"; Icarus Films; "Matamata and Pilipili"; Icarus Films

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